Sarah Pinborough

Dead to Her – Sarah Pinborough

Title – Dead to Her

Author – Sarah Pinborough

Published – 4 June 2020

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve only read a few books by Sarah Pinborough but the differences between all three mark her out as a very versatile author, the settings, characters and plot couldn’t be more different but are all equally credible.

In Dead to Her we’re off to steamy Savannah, Georgia and the world of some seriously wealthy couples living the high life. Marcie knows how difficult it can be to fit in with the country club set when you’re the new, younger, second wife, so when her widowed husband’s boss brings a new wife, Keisha, home from his trip to London, a woman who is at least forty years younger than him, stunning and black, she’s quick to appraise her. But where there might have been sisterly solidarity Marcie can only see a threat to her own plans.

The story switches back and forth between Keisha and Marcie. We learn from Keisha of her less than ideal upbringing and background.  We know why she married a man old enough to be her grandfather and the price that she has to pay. Living in a house full of secrets with reminders of her predecessor all around while she is haunted by her own past.

From Marcie we find out what it takes to be part of the ‘set’ and the worries of the second wife – when you married a cheater can you ever trust them? Asked by her husband to make friends with Keisha he can’t have imagined how that request would pan out.

As the plot unfolds it moves with the slow, sultry heat of the deep south. The atmosphere is full of sex, money and black magic. And then there is an unexpected death – the plot takes off and the true nature of the members of the clique becomes clear.

A really enjoyable read with some twists and turns – perfect for fans of Big Little Lies. Thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.

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13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough

61Pu6V7htlLTitle – The Death House

Author – Sarah Pinborough

Published – 18 February 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

My only experience of something written by Sarah Pinborough was The Death House, so I wasn’t sure whether to expect something similar from 13 Minutes but while this book also centres around a group of teenagers it really couldn’t more different.

The 13 Minutes of the title is the amount of time that Tasha was dead for, after she was discovered in a river early one morning. Although she recovers quickly she has no recollection of how she ended up in the water or the hours leading up to it. She is sure that it wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t suicide.

In the aftermath of the incident Tasha rekindles her friendship with Becca; they’d stopped being friends some time ago when she decided that Becca wasn’t cool enough. And here we have the essence of the story – teenage girls and the ups and downs of their friendships, and they can be pretty toxic. Which means that this reminded me more of Dare Me than The Death House. None of the girls are particularly likeable or perhaps that’s just how they see themselves and each other; it’s Becca that I was empathising with the most, but even she has her faults.

The story is woven together using multiple points of view – from the DI investigating the case to the diary Tasha writes for her psychiatrist, and from  newspaper articles to texts between Tasha’s closest friends. The different perspectives help the author develop the mystery angle of the story and switching points of view allows the pace to vary. Perhaps that might feel fragmented but I enjoyed the different format of the sources and voices of the characters.

The story is compelling, as Tasha tries to figure out what happened to her. The relationships between the different girls ebb and flow in the first days after her brush with death but it’s Becca that she enlists to help her investigate. They conspire together as the police are undertaking their own investigation – which has some direct implications for Becca. And just when you think the book must have reached the end it keeps on going – intriguing eh?!

A great read and a reminder of what it was like to be a teenage girl (and how glad I am that’s in the past!). Thanks to the publisher for the review copy –  you can see another point of view on Lizzy’s blog.

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The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Title – The Death House

Author – Sarah Pinborough

Published – 26 February 2015

Genre – Fiction deathhouse_thumb

It’s funny how coincidences happen between the books you read – I picked this up after finishing Runaway and found quite a few similarities (as well as contrasts) between the two. Both feature lead characters who have unexpectedly changed direction in their teens, both facing difficulties in making the most of the situation. But where Runaway is perhaps a story of missed opportunity The Death House offers something different.

Horror works best when the ‘monster’ is left to your imagination, and this is a perfect example. It’s not quite a conventional horror, but I’m not sure how else to describe this book – perhaps a sort of “YA sci-fi horror” and a good example of how you can’t really categorise books. In fact the story is most reminiscent for me of Never Let Me Go, but with something darker lurking in the attic.

The story is sixteen-year old Toby’s. Toby is taken from his home following a blood test and put in a communal home with other children, both older and younger, who are all similarly afflicted. Initially Toby is careful to keep himself to himself and maintain some distance from the others. They have all seen at first hand what happens if they show any sign of sickness and there is an atmosphere of dread permeating the home. Then some new ‘Defectives’ arrive, disturbing the balance in the home, and Toby finds himself re-joining life, despite the potential emotional consequences.

Echoing the form of Runaway, the story is told using flashbacks (in Toby’s case back to his forced removal from his home and the early days at “the home”) although in this case the present day is told in the first person.

One neat touch I liked was the books the children were reading – Lord of the Flies and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It’s easy to see these as two alternative outcomes when children are left to their own devices. You’re left to see how things will pan out for the Defectives.

In contrast to Runaway, which is very firmly fixed in place and time, The Death House is a set in a time and a place that are never quite made clear – the time is at least a hundred years from now, the place an island somewhere off the English coast. None of this matters, and the things that are hidden only serve to pique your interest.

It’s difficult to describe this as an enjoyable read, but is certainly moving and absorbing, and it’s hard to shake off the sense of foreboding and dread that permeates the book – it’s one that lingers long after the last page.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy –  you can see another point of view at Reader Dad.

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